On a very cold night in a non-too-warm theatre, David Lindsay-Abaire's play generated much discussion as the story of Margie unfolded. It's a play about circumstance and luck; how life throws some a hand up whilst to others, it can be quite unkind. It's a play about people who might be seen to be 'good' from one perspective but when the truth comes out, might not be considered all that 'good' at all. It's a play about language and interpretation; about truth and lies; about love and loss; about class and perceptions of class; about racism; about responsibilities; about assumptions. It's witty, brassy, sassy and totally involving. The characters are real characters - not caricatures - in that the audience can relate to every one of them as the plot develops and sympathies shift from one to another. Just when you think you have found a 'good' or 'bad' person, your opinions are challenged. This play is impossible to second-guess.
There are 6 characters in the play, although there are others who are mentioned who influence the tale. Joy Brook, who plays Margaret (Margie) holds the play together in that she appears in the majority of scenes. Margie is from South Boston, USA which has a reputation for being a rough, working-class neighbourhood with a lack of diversity. It's where Lindsay-Abaire himself grew up - he was a 'Southie' - so he understands the situation many people can find themselves in and the issues of class and the lack of social mobility, but in this play he has not fallen into the trap of enforcing social stereotypes. But it's the direction of the play which brings out the grittiness and the psychology of the characters and that is down to Adrian Rawlins' interpretation of it and, indeed, his courage at presenting it at East Riding Theatre where he is Artistic Director. It's only been performed once before in England, with Imelda Staunton in the lead role; now Joy Brook will be that 'hard act to follow'!
We meet Margie in the Dollar Store where she works for not-a-lot and is getting fired by Stevie (Michael Kinsey). She needs the work as without it, she cannot afford to pay her rent. She enjoys playing Bingo as escapism with Jean, the 'Mouthie from Southie' (Nada Sharp) and brash Dottie (Janet Prince) in the hope she might win a jackpot to help ease some of her financial worries. Then she hears an old flame, Mike (Rory Murray), is back in town; he's had some good luck and is now a doctor, married to Kate (Misha Duncan-Barry) and with a family. Perhaps, just perhaps, Mike could be the way out of her situation?
Adrian Rawlins is aided by a fine production team comprising Clive Kneller (Assistant Director); Ed Ullyart (Set Design); John Warriner (Set Build); Lighting Design (Simon Bedwell); Sylvia Eales and Edwina Jackson (the shrewd Costume Designers who have the characters dressed to a tee, especially Dottie with her short skirts and colourful tights) and Charlie Johnston (Stage Manager). As ever, the East Riding Theatre's team of volunteers who ensure the safety of theatre-goers, man the box office and the bar and sell ice-creams are an invaluable resource and their contribution to the experience should be recognised.
'Good People' would make a great film with this cast and crew. Each actor brings their character's own moral dilemmas to life; they gel as characters and so we forget they are actors portraying a part. This is a play for today - it is said that many people today in this harsh economic climate are only one pay-check away from homelessness and it could be that one or more of this cast and crew have direct experience of that. Their integrity and believability would suggest that.
'Good People' plays most evenings at ERT until March 24th at 7.30pm with selected matinees at 2pm. Tickets can be booked here